Skip to content

ACLU: Montana first in country to ban warrantless location tracking

cellphone-with-mapThe [ACLU reports today]( that Montana is the first state in the union to [require a warrant before police can use your mobile device to track your location](

House Bill 603, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings) and [signed into law on May 6]($BSRV.ActionQuery?P_SESS=20131&P_BLTP_BILL_TYP_CD=&P_BILL_NO=&P_BILL_DFT_NO=LC1905&P_CHPT_NO=&Z_ACTION=Find&P_SBJT_SBJ_CD=&P_ENTY_ID_SEQ=), says that government entities cannot obtain location information from an electronic device without a court-issued search warrant.

The law makes exceptions, including cases where the owner reports the phone stolen, to respond to a call for emergency help, with permission of the owner or in the case of a “life-threatening situation.”

Violators of the law are subject to a maximum civil fine of $50.

The state’s chapter of the ACLU was a supporter of the bill. Spokeswoman [Niki Zupanic said before the House Judiciary Committee in March](, “Having essentially a GPS tracking device on your body at all times opens up the door for a lot of information about where to you are and what you’re doing to be shared.”

At the same hearing, opponent Bruce Spencer of the Montana Automobile Dealers Association said the bill would hurt roadside services like OnStar.

“I question whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in something that you can turn off,” [he said at the time](

A similar bill is making its way through the House of Representatives in Washington. The [Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act](, sponsored by Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, prohibits the intentional interception of another person’s geolocation data and sharing that information.

The bill was introduced March 21 and has since been referred to committee. [Information on that and other GPS-related bills are available at](